What Doctors Know and Patients Don’t

Doctors know a lot about how our healthcare system operates. Let them help you navigate it for your medical and financial benefit.

Have you ever wondered, Do I need that test? Am I taking too many medicines? How expensive is this going to be?”

Fortunately for all of us, there are a lot of healthcare professionals who are asking those same questions. Earlier this month, I attended the Lown Conference, where attendees that included doctors, nurses and other health care workers discussed ways to improve our healthcare system.

Doctors Know the System — Get Their Advice

One of the topics spotlighted was the estimated $200 billion to $900 billion wasted every year on medical overuse, with unnecessary tests and treatments harming patients. Here are some of the tips that doctors tell each other, and that you might use:

• If you need an x-ray, you can go to the lowest cost clinic rather than the local hospital. Your doctor should know where in your neighborhood you can get the cheapest x-ray.

• When discussing medicines, remind your doctor if you have asthma, psoriasis or a delicate stomach, for example. It may affect your care.

• Share with the doctor what your biggest worry is, even if it’s not medical. Are you worried about how you are going to pay for this visit? Is it difficult for you to get to and from appointments? Are you having troubles with your children or spouse? You don’t need to pour your heart out, but if it’s keeping you up at night or stopping you from getting medical care, it’s affecting your health.

Share with the doctor what your biggest worry is, even if it’s not medical.

You’d be surprised to find that there are medical device products (artificial knees, hips, stents, etc) on the market that have a long history of adverse events. What I learned? Before surgery, find out the name and manufacturer of the device and check it out for any recalls or published adverse events.

When a doctor suggests an intervention, medicine or surgery, ask: What if I do nothing? With the intervention, what is my best case? What is my worst case?

Make sure your blood work at your annual physical is sent to Quest or LabCorp and not to the hospital lab. Hospital lab fees for standard blood work tend to be much higher.

When to Change Doctors

Respect from the doctor and the doctor’s staff is the No. 1 health concern of patients. At the conference, we heard about research that showed what makes a patient feel respected is:

  • Eye contact and a friendly manner.
  • Shared decision making. In other words, the patient’s opinion counts.
  • Consideration for the patient’s financial concerns.

Patients who felt disrespected were 3 times more likely to not listen to the doctor and twice as likely to not take the medicine as prescribed. What did I take away from this? Medical degrees are awarded for knowledge, not personality. Ignoring the doctor’s advice because he or she is a jerk only harms you and your family. Follow the advice and then find a new doctor.

The motto of the founder of the Lown Institute, the host of the conference, is: Do as much as possible for the patient, and as little as possible to the patient. A good way for all of us to approach all health care decisions.

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

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